On Oct. 2, Cheshire High School boys’ soccer opened with a 2-1 loss at Xavier in Middletown. A month later, the rivals played to the identical score at the same site to finish up the year.
In the Southern Connecticut Conference Division A final on Nov. 14, CHS (second seed, 6-4-2) fell 2-1 to the top-seeded Falcons. Xavier scored in both halves to go up 2-0 and then relied on sophomore goalkeeper Spencer Misenti to help them hold on to secure the title.
Along with a 1-0 loss to Xavier on Nov. 4, CHS dropped three rivalry games by a single goal.
“It’s tough,” said central back EJ Gonzalez, a senior co-captain with goalkeeper Matt Pisani. “I think we were just unlucky and couldn’t catch a break.”
In the title game, the Falcons jumped ahead with 31:31 remaining in the first half. In front of the net, junior John Milardo passed to classmate Brady Stevenson, who kicked the ball into the upper right corner of the net.
Xavier tried to extend their lead, but Pisani saved a free kick and added a one-handed deflection in the first half.
Sparked by junior Murphy Malone, CHS had multiple scoring chances early. First, Malone had a shot drift wide of the left post.
Soon after, Murphy booted a free kick toward the left corner, but Misenti dove into the net and used his body and the post to keep the ball in front of the goal line.
With 10:40 remaining in the half, Malone dribbled into the middle and took a shot, but Misenti leapt up to deflect the ball off the cross bar. Like Pisani, Misenti finished with four saves.
“He is a good player,” said Malone. “It was frustrating to not score on those shots.”
Malone joined the Rams after transferring from Chase Collegiate School this year.
“Murphy is a special kid,” stated Head Coach Artur Branco. “He made a big impact for us during the season.”
CHS continued to pressure Xavier in the second half, but the Falcons used a counter attack to get their second goal with 29 minutes left. Stevenson passed down to junior Ryan Gerry, who scored to the left portion of the net.
“We are disappointed to give up those two goals,” said Branco. “On the first one, they caught us ball watching and then they scored in transition.”
In the second half, sophomore Samir Dishnica had a couple of shots saved by Misenti, however, he returned to assist on Cheshire’s lone goal with 2:39 remaining. On a free kick, Gonzalez precisely timed a header into the net to end the shutout.
“It was surreal to score on a header. I got a great ball from Samir,” explained Gonzalez. “As a defender, you don’t get a lot of opportunities to get goals.”
While cutting the deficit in half, CHS was unable to get the equalizer and fell a goal short.
“The boys played hard for the whole game,” said Branco. “We are proud of them.”
Misenti, who received SCC Tournament Most Outstanding Player, was among a group of Xavier players asked to quarantine due to the pandemic this fall. The Falcons canceled their regular-season finale, but players were able to return for the SCC Tournament.
To reach the final against the Falcons, Cheshire earned a 5-2 win over North Haven (third seed) in the semifinals on Nov. 12. Back on Oct. 6, CHS beat their rival by the same score.
Malone scored just four minutes and 19 seconds into the rematch, but just a minute and 35 seconds later, North Haven senior Luke Franco tied the game.
From there, CHS reeled off four straight goals, three before halftime, to take the lead for good. In that run, seniors Austin Goldberg and Clement Pez both recorded their first varsity goals.
“It was surreal. I worked hard for it,” said Goldberg.
“I didn’t expect it (my shot) to go in,” added Pez. “It felt great to help the team.”
Gonzalez also earned his first goal of the year, converting on a header off a corner kick by Dishnica.
With 33:25 remaining in the game, Malone broke free to net his second goal and tie his career-high total. The tally was set up by the personal-best third assist from Dishnica.
“I got a great ball and finished the play,” said Malone.
Pisani tallied two saves.
Branco was thankful that his boys got to play in a tournament and reach a final for the first time since winning the SCC in 2007.
“The boys would have been demoralized if they didn’t get to play this year,” stated Branco.
Cheshire will graduate Gonzalez, Pisani, Tim Beecher, Owen Ferguson, Austin and Garrett Goldberg, Nate Houle, and Pez. The class has a mix of players who’ve contributed on varsity for years and others who had to wait for their opportunity this year.
“I’m going to miss everyone on the team,” said Pisani, a four-year varsity player. “I came to practice every day with a smile on my face because I got to be around these guys.”